Tuesday, 17 January 2012

In which I become bicraftual.

We did, indeed, have a most fabulous time in London at the weekend, and I can most highly recommend The Ladykillers.  The run has been extended until mid-April but it's likely to sell out pretty quick so if you were considering it, then hurry up and decide!

We don't think we've been to the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue before but for one of the Victorian/Edwardian theatres, it was pretty comfortable.  TLH is a chap that takes up a lot of space and being about 6'2", he values his legroom.  Most of the older theatres in London are very uncomfortable for him.  Plus the seats can be quite narrow too - how the ladies ever got their voluminous frocks in them I'll never know - but the Gielgud had enough legroom and there was just about enough elbow space so you didn't feel you were encroaching too much on your neighbour.  It's quite an intimate theatre too, so even though we were three rows from the back of the stalls, we still felt we were plenty close enough to see the actors' faces properly.

Enough of that, though.  This was intended as a new Ta-Daa post.  And in a new craft at that.  I've had another go at knitting, with better results than last time.  This time around I fished out some knitting needles, grabbed some wool and knitted and purled for several inches, then ripped it out and started again.  Then ripped it out and started again.  Then decided I'd got the hang of that and actually wanted to try making something.  My goal is - don't laugh - to be able to knit socks.  I'm a sock wearer - 99% of the time I wear trousers or leggings or jogging bottoms so socks it is.  And I like knee socks too, but they're very hard to come by, especially if you have matronly calves, like I do.  So one way to resolve this is to make them myself.  I do realise, of course, that this is a bit like me being able to walk up hilly Guildford High Street and then announce that I'm going to tackle Mount Everest but, hey, doesn't hurt to have goals.

Some of you may have heard of the messageboard Ravelry.  Ostensibly set up for people who knit and/or crochet as a place to keep track of your projects and interact with like-minded addicts, I've been on there for a couple of years now so thought I'd ask those wiser than myself to point me in the direction of a very VERY easy knitting pattern that is absolutely NOT a bloody scarf or a hat (which is what you traditionally start with when learning to knit).  People give me scarfs and I've crocheted at least 3 for myself in the last couple of years so I really don't need anymore of them. 

A lovely lady pointed me in the direction of a free pattern called Dew Drop Cowl.  And, no, a cowl isn't exactly like a scarf even though you wear it round your neck - OK?  Unfortunately I can't link to it from here because you need to be a registered member of Ravelry to access it.  This is what the finished item should look like though:

It calls for knitting, purling, decreasing by knitting two stitches together (k2tog) and increasing by yarn over (yo) and that's all.  It's a very loose knit item so you don't need to worry about tension or gauges.  I had to look up Youtube videos for k2tog and yo but they're simplicity itself.  You also need a set of 6mm circular needles and a stitchmarker.  I found those quite tricky to handle but it makes sense to use circulars because you're creating a tube (the stitchmarker is to indicate where the end of a row would be normally). 

A week ago I popped into my nearest wool shop and got my circulars:


And found myself some really nice yarn which, even better, was on sale at only £3.99 a ball:

It's made of recycled silk, cotton and viscose, and the colour is lovely - a turquoisey blue with flecks of loads of other colours.  Nice.

So I started it on Monday last week, and finished it yesterday.  There were 41 rows of 200 stitches each, so that's 8,200 stitches in all (no wonder my hands ached afterwards).  And it didn't come out too badly at all:

Wearing the Dew Drop Cowl (should've worn some make up!)

Dew Drop Cowl

I'm wearing my Dew Drop Cowl and seemingly my grandmother's chin as well

Of course I've hid the errors well and there were some.  It took me a few rows to work out how to join them on the circulars without leaving a huge gap (I sewed it up after) but the biggest error is that I somehow managed to twist the stitches on the circulars so that instead of it being a proper tube shape, it ended up being a Moebius twist.  I'm calling it a design feature.  It's not, it's a mistake but no-one will know!

Dew Drop Cowl

Dew Drop Cowl

Last night, after I finished and realised where I'd gone wrong, I was really quite pissed off with myself for getting such a simple design wrong but after having slept on it and looked again this morning I think I was being a bit harsh on myself and it's not too bad after all.  Especially for a first attempt.

So what shall I make now?  I still want/need to do very simple stuff - any ideas?

(Oh, and I spent 2 hours this morning filling in an application for a job.  I know - blimey!  It will probably come to naught so I'll let you know more about it when I've more to tell).

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Two brill things what I've seen.....

First off - how are you all?  Well, I hope.  I've been living in the House (and, indeed, the Head) of Snot for the last couple of weeks.  Both TLH and I went down with The Massive Cold From Hell that's been doing the rounds.  He fared better than I did - at one point I would have most definitely failed the Flu Test.  You know the one, it's the one that determines whether you're suffering from a cold or the flu - if you're feeling grotty and look out of your window to see a £10 note lying in the gutter outside, if you've got a cold you'll go and get it, if you've got the flu you won't be capable of, or even interested in, going outside to get it.  On the first day that the germs hit me I felt so unutterably dreadful that it could have been a £50 note and I still wouldn't have gone outside for it.  I had an atrocious sinus headache, aches in every single joint known to womankind, was wearing at least 3 layers of clothes but was still shivering enough to need a further layer of blankets and was sneezing loud enough to crack the windowpanes.  Awful.  I'm much better now but it's still just hanging around the edges.  I don't recommend catching this one at all.

Secondly - while I'm here whinging about my physical ailments (and thereby fulfilling every menopausal stereotype going) - I've also done something to my right foot.  I haven't been able to go out running since the last time (well, duh....) just before Christmas when I clocked up 50 miles.  So that's getting on for about a month now, isn't it?  Hmm, this isn't good.  I may have to take it to my tame chiropractor as I'm sure it's a mechanical thing.  I'm not aware that I twisted my ankle or foot last time I was out but it's possible.  I can't tell whether it's Achilles Tendonitis or Plantar Fasciitis but it's unbelievably painful whatever it is.  But only when I start walking on it after resting it for any length of time.  So first thing in the morning, or if I've been sitting down during the day, when I stand up and start walking, the heel pain on my right foot is horrible and it takes a few minutes of me hobbling about like a cripple before it wears off and I'm fine again.  It gives me no more trouble and then I sit down for a bit.  And then I stand up and the pain starts all over again.  And some days are better than others.  It's a pain in the hole (or rather, my foot) is what it is....  The sad thing is this current sudden spell of extremely sunny and frosty morning is, to me, perfect running weather and I actually would rather like to go for a run in it, but I daren't.  If it carries on for another week without improvement, then I'll get it looked at.

But, hey, this isn't what I logged on this morning to post about. 

I saw two brilliant things yesterday - one online and the other in real life - which I thought I'd share.  The first thing was this extraordinary golden cape:

 and golden scarf:

Close up of the scarf design:

"So what?" I hear you say.  "Sure, it's pretty enough but what's so special?"  If I show you a close up of the design on the cape, you might get a hint of why these textiles are so amazing:

These textiles are remarkable because the image above is of female Golden Orb spiders and it is their silk that has been spun and used to weave the cape and scarf.

I'll just run that past you again.

Made from spider silk.

From over 1 million spiders.

Isn't that extraordinary?  And aren't they just beautiful things?  That fabulous colour is entirely natural too.  These are modern items, made in Madagascar, and are currently on tour.  They've just been to Chicago and New York, and will be at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 25 January to 5 June.  I think I have to go.

The second splendid thing I saw yesterday was at Mercedes Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey.  We bought our little Smart Car from there in May last year and it was due a service.  Mercedes Benz World is a brilliant place if you have any kind of petrolhead on you at all.  They have a showroom with all the latest models for ordinary mortals as well as ones that are only fit for Saudi princes.  There's also a museum and various displays in there which they'd changed since we were there last, so we had a bit of a wander when we went to collect the car.

Right up on the top floor, amongst other exhibits, I found this extraordinary car.  It was created by Geraldine Lloyd, an artist who has been dealing with cancer in various forms for about 40 years.  She found this old Merc in a scrapyard and adds bits to it every time she has to undergo treatment.  I think it's a fantastic thing:

The pictures were taken on my iPhone so apologies for crappy quality but I hope they're good enough for you to see just what an awesome piece of art this is.  I realise it may not be to everyone's taste but it's a tangible object showing one woman's way of psychologically dealing with the trauma of having yet another cancer diagnosis - go and stick more stuff on the Merc.

So that was yesterday, and today TLH and I are driving up to London to go see the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum, drink Margaritas at Wahaca in Covent Garden and go see The Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.  So more brill things to see.  And it's another beautiful sunny, icy, sparkly day.  Sometimes life doesn't get much better than this....

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong....

Of course the world won't end in December 2012.  I don't expect.  The Rapture didn't happen for the Christian god-botherers and there's no reason to think that the Mayans were any better at judging this sort of thing.  I hope.

Anyway, how was your Christmas and New Year?  Mine was most acceptable.  We 'did' Christmas at our house for the first time ever - my mum and stepdad, and TLH's sister came over and food was consumed and drink imbibed and gifts opened.  Most convivial.

This year I got many books from my Amazon wish list, a 3.5 litre slowcooker, a very nice cheque (most of which has, rather sadly, gone towards a new washing machine) and, as ever, The Lovely Husband got my favourite gifts, a rather splendid turquoise Mexican wrestler's mask:

I have a plan to mount it like a trophy head.  Because why not.

He also got me this stunning silk scarf designed by Grayson Perry showing his map of the British Museum:
I am most enamoured of Grayson Perry's work and the British Museum is one of my most favouritest places ever in the history of ever so to get the two combined is gold-plated fabulosity incarnate.  Was that too gushy?

The scarf is really big - 90cm x 90cm - and I'm going to get it framed as it's likely to be the only piece of his artwork that I'll ever be able to afford.

New Year's Eve was very quiet at Jones Towers, as it often is.  We ended up watching six hours of The Killing II which we taped earlier and had saved for this purpose.  We drank lager, gin & tonic and had champagne at midnight while the local fireworks made it sound like The Somme out there.

So, what am I looking forward to in 2012?  The world not ending for a start.  But apart from that, in general terms, there's the London Olympics in the summer that we didn't manage to get tickets for so will have to be satisfied with being glued to the telly for.  We loves the Olympics, we do.

Of more historical interest, this year marks the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen.  60 years on the throne is a long time, and I suspect she'll do her best to beat Queen Victoria's record as longest-reigning monarch at 63 years.  She'll be nearly 90 by then so it might be a close run thing.  I'm not a monarchist by any stretch of the imagination but being of an archaeological and historical bent, this sort of thing always interests me.

As a couple, TLH and I are off to more classical concerts at the Guildford Civic and in a couple of weeks we're off to see The Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre.  Written by Graham Linehan - who wrote Black Books, Father Ted and The I.T. Crowd - it has had rave reviews.  Then in February I managed to get tickets for one of the last performances with James Corden in One Man Two Guv'nors at the Adelphi, before the cast changes and it moves to a different theatre.  I have had the great fortune to meet up with the really rather wonderful Katyboo during 2011 for a couple of theatrical jaunts and it reminded me of how much I did actually enjoy going to the theatre so I'm hoping to try and go a bit more frequently.

As for other things, it would be nice to get to go away on holiday, for the first time in several  years, but that's dependent on whether or not I can persuade TLH to actually take some time off and not just work all the hours he can get, even allowing for the dire economic climate.

I'm hoping Bev and I can sort out our saxophone duo thing we have planned and, of course, some more gigs with The Fugitives would be enormous fun.

I'm also going to have another serious stab ('stab' being the operative word) at teaching myself how to knit.  I partially managed it last year but found it really difficult so I'm not sure I was doing it right so put it away again and returned to my crochet hook.  As soon as I publish this post I'll be heading off to Youtube to find a decent tutorial - wish me luck!

Continued good health for all my friends and family would, of course, be most welcome.

What are the rest of you hopeful for?